Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Beninese Family.

This week I was able to do something I've looked forward to, hoped for, and wanted for five years. I visited my Beninese family that I spent the most time with out in my village while a peace corps volunteer.  To see them again five years later was such a privilege; when we said goodbye we really thought it would be forever.  These treasures welcomed me into their home whenever I wandered in, whenever I was lonely in village life or just wanted to eat something delicious!  They dropped everything and took care of me when I had a massive allergic reaction that could have (but thankfully didn't) become life threatening; they cared for me when I got hit by a moto; they taught me how to be Beninese, instilled in me a love for this place and these people that continues on.

They invited me to join them this week as they celebrated Tabaski, a Muslim holiday I celebrated with them five years ago!  They remembered all the things I loved to eat and we filled ourselves with deliciousness, with memories, with stories, with hopes for the future and renewed relationships with each other. What an amazing thing, to have family across the globe.  I can't wait to have them to the ship in a few weeks!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The goal.

I referenced in my last blog a quote from Brene Brown that has really been on my mind a lot lately:

If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it.  If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay.  If the goal is being liked, and they don’t like me, I’m in trouble.

It’s caused me to ask what’s the goal so many times and I think it’s really saved me some panic/anxiety/stress.

How?

~ A colleague printed some invitations in black and white that I thought should have been in color.  I really thought they should be in color, and almost asked her to reprint them… but then thought what’s the goal?  To invite people to training programs, to bring hope and healing to this country.  What isn’t the goal? Impressing people.  The black and white invitations did the job we needed them to do.  I needed to let go of my need to be impressive

~ I had to give a speech in French. I stumbled on some words.  The goal was to get information out and build relationships with the people in attendance, and I did that well.  The goal was not to speak perfect French.  I needed to let go of my expectation of perfection.

~ I could spend eight hours on a school paper, and it would be high distinction level work.  However, the goal is to get the degree and still get enough sleep, take care of my heart and soul, and be excellent in my work.  So really? Four hours will get me a decent paper and some extra chill time.  That’s a win.


I think about friends I see panicking about putting together a perfect birthday party for their children, and I think what’s the goal?  If the goal is impressing all your friends, or the other moms, or the family, then yeah, maybe that stress is worth it.  If the goal is to party and celebrate life and family and joy, then is it worth all that stress and cost to achieve pinterest-worthy photos?  Not a judgement, just a question, that I’m asking myself daily it seems.

What's the goal of this work project? Is it to impress people or to help people?  What's the goal of a sabbath day? What's the goal of writing a blog?  What's the goal of leading a community group? 

I don’t know where I read it or who said it to me, but I have just above my desk a post-it note that says:

Just keep doing your thing with as much integrity and love as possible.

That’s the goal.  Authenticity, integrity, passion, love, purpose, light, truth.  

May it sink deep in my soul. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Create the space.

You have to brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs. ~Katherine Center

This is my eighth year living in Africa.  It’s been incredible and hard and awesome.  So many people call me brave. I’ve written before (here) that my brave isn’t living in a foreign country and culture; my brave is admitting mistakes I’ve made, or asking for help, or pushing through the doubt and fear and lonely and connecting with others.

This year I’ll be leading an open community group aboard the AFM.

This isn’t a closed group of friends that I know well that will be journeying together.  I’d honestly rather it was.  That’s comfortable, for me.  And what I have done the last several years.  So when I was asking God what my involvement would look like in small groups this year (as my entire small group from the last few years has left) it was so clear to me that an open small group was it. 

People can come and go as their work schedules allow.  People brand new on the ship with no friends yet are welcome alongside people who have been here longer than I have.  I know that the ship can be a desperately lonely place, and I know if I feel that I am not the only one.

What is my role in this?  Well, I will tell you what it isn’t.  It isn’t up to me to create spiritual experiences for people.  It isn’t up to me to draw people closer to the heart of God.  It isn’t up to me to make sure people hear from God.  It isn’t up to me to gather a whole big group.  It isn’t up to me to speak to the depths of people’s hearts.  It isn’t up to me to try to fill the room or make people cry or get anyone to say how awesome I am.  It’s not even my job to try to be awesome.

My role, what I have been called to do is this: create a safe, encouraging space for people to connect to others at a heart level beneath the surface.  To start a conversation about what walking with God looks like.  And to encourage authenticity and vulnerability, by being authentic and vulnerable. 

Brene Brown is one of my favorite author-researchers, and she says in The Gifts of Imperfection:

                If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it.  If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay.  If the goal is being liked, and they don’t like me, I’m in trouble.

So my goal isn’t to have a room full of people, or to be liked, or to be seen as a spiritual leader or really anything about me.  It’s about creating space and leading by example.

So when anyone asks me “how many people did you have?” the answer will be “just the right number.”  Hey, if no one shows up one week, at least it’s a two hour time period I’ve already blocked off and allocated towards the pursuit of God.

Why am I sharing this? 

If you are on the ship, and this connects in some way to your heart, (and you are a woman :)) please join me at 7pm on Wednesdays in the Hospital conference room.

If you aren’t – if you are friends, family, support, strangers afar – I want to encourage you to be brave with what God is asking you to do.  Maybe it’s leading something like me, or planting a church, or stepping into something new, and you need to be told it’s not up to you to create spiritual experiences for people, or bring in the multitudes, or manipulate emotions or experiences…  God never calls us to do any of that.  Promise. It’s only up to you to create the space to do so.   I’ve lived under so much pressure in the past that it’s up to me to bring people to youth group or to church or to a new experience with God… but really, that’s all His work, and He’s got it. 

My brave wall.
Your being brave allows others to do the same. 

I’d love to hear what bravery looks like to you today!  xxk